After tabling the measure several times in order to obtain additional public input, Milford City Council approved a report created by Century Engineering that would add traffic calming measures as well as a shared bicycle and pedestrian path along South Walnut Street between Maple Street and McCoy Street. The report was approved in order for staff to begin the design and funding phase of the project.
“So what we’re looking for this evening is guidance from council whether they would like to accept the final report. We kind of need some guidance so we can move forward with moving on with formal design of the project and seeking funding for the design and construction of these improvements,” Rob Pierce, City Planner, said. “Please keep in mind that this is a result of not only a traffic calming study, but it also looks to implement recommendations from our Bicycle Master Plan, which proposed off street shared use path along the west side of South Walnut Street which will tie into the bike paths that are being constructed for The Simpsons Crossing and Milford Ponds projects and tying all that stuff back into town.”
Pierce continued that the project would also fill in sidewalk gaps along the east side of Walnut Street as well as bicycle and pedestrian lanes that would be separated from traffic.
“We also have a slight shift, a slight deflection in the right of way to kind of make you have to navigate a slight bend to slow you down as well. But they’re also showing some crosswalks at McCoy Street at Clarke, where Clarke and Seabury meet Walnut and then again, they also have a proposed realignment of the Jefferson Avenue section there at Walnut at the railroad crossing to kind of bring that into a more traditional four way perpendicular intersection,” Pierce said. “As a result of some of the feedback we got from the community, south of railroad tracks where you start to get into the historic district where there’s some existing brick sidewalk we’d look to replace. We wouldn’t put an asphalt path or concrete path, we would we put some sort of rubber stamped concrete that appears to look like brick to kind of keep the character that area.”
Councilman Andy Fulton expressed concerns for those property owners who have improved sidewalks under a recent push by the city, asking if those costs would be refunded if the city tore up the sidewalks to add the shared use path.
“What we’re seeking this evening is approval of the concept plan so we can move forward into implementation,” Pierce said. “Council would need to decide on whether they would like to refund any of those monies for any repairs that were made on the west side of Walnut Street. I don’t know. I’m not sure if public works, knows if there’s been any work on that side of the street but that would be a decision that council would have to make.”
Councilman Todd Culotta echoed the concerns of Councilman Fulton.
“Well fundamentally, this council said as it stands now is you’re responsible for your sidewalk. So, if we put sidewalks over there, you’re essentially saying okay, we’re paying for it. We’ll put them in there, but you’ll have to be responsible for the maintenance and repair them going forward. And so, if I’m the homeowner, I might say don’t put a sidewalk here,” Councilman Culotta said. “I like the concept, I do think it is nice, and maybe we debate this a little bit, Rob. But is it traffic calming as the primary goal? It’s an expensive solution, but the improvement to the road and the aesthetics. I don’t like that people that currently have parking in front of their house that would be at risk of it being removed. I do like the fact that it’s bicycle friendly. And the crosswalks are ideal for safety. But I think we look at the sidewalk policy again or we just look at this in more detail but at this time because this is just a vote to move it forward. I think there’s a lot to be discussed.”
Pierce explained that there are areas of the city where sidewalks are being replaced as part of infill and in those areas, the property owner retains ownerships and maintenance of those sidewalks.
“It is similar to a home builder or developer constructing that sidewalk before it’s purchased,” Pierce said. “In areas where we are doing shared use paths and, Mark you can correct me if I’m wrong, but we’re adding bike paths, those would be maintained by the city for this type of application here where it’s required as part of a site plan that would be privately maintained, but we’re going to install a shared use path which is above and beyond the typical five foot wide sidewalk. I think city would maintain that long term.” City Manager Mark Whitfield confirmed that the city would maintain shared use paths not installed by a developer, separate from sidewalks.
Pierce stated that the shared use path currently being installed by Milford Ponds and Simpson Crossing would be maintained by the developer as they were installing them.
“We would anticipate bringing back the design drawings at a certain stage if we got to that point. Obviously, we’ve got to come back to council for funding, design approval construction approval,” Pierce said. “So, this is not the end of all the details with this project, but at least it sets a path for staff to move forward with. And again, this could be accepted with any modifications Council desires. Tonight, we are just looking for final acceptance of this study., similar to what we did with the downtown streetscape concept plans, and that way we could go out and seek design approvals or design contracts.”
Despite considerable discussion on social media about the concept, there was no public comment during the meeting, either online or in person. The project will now move to the design phase before returning to council for adoption.
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